Eyes on Technology

When you were a kid, your parents warned you that watching too much television would “rot your brain”. They said staring at that TV box would make you go blind! While that may have been a false threat to encourage you to get outside for some fresh air, the threat you may now have from your smartphone is a real one.

As technology has taken off, so have the studies behind the possible damage it could cause us. One of the biggest concerns lately is the effect your smartphone can have on your vision. Gadgets, such as iPhones or Androids, produce a type of blue light which can cause a lot of stress to your eyes; photoreceptors in your eyes will actually begin to diminish from the prolonged exposure to this blue light. This can cause anything from minor visual impairment (ever felt like your eyes were just “tired”?) to permanent visual disorders such as macular degeneration. In simpler terms, macular degeneration is a disorder where your central vision loses focus and becomes increasingly blurry. This is usually age-related; however, with the rise in smartphone usage, it is beginning to occur to younger individuals.

Another strange vision phenomenon related to smartphones was recently in the news when two women complained of temporary vision loss in only one of their eyes. After a large gamut of tests, including MRI scans and heart tests, doctors were still baffled at this strange occurrence. It wasn’t until they went to an eye specialist that the mystery was (easily) solved. Dr Gordon Plant of Moorfield’s Eye Hospital simply asked the women what they had been doing before this blindness occurred and their answers immediately solved the case. Both women were lying in bed using their smartphones in the dark; however, both would lay on their sides with one eye covered with their pillow. This caused one eye to be adapted to the light while one was adapted to the dark, resulting in the temporary blindness that they complained about. A scary, albeit harmless and easily avoidable, occurrence! Dr Plant advised, simply, to ensure you are using both eyes when using your smartphone.

It is not surprising that the overuse of our devices has now started to affect our vision. Most of us rely on them to get through our every day! However, if you’re beginning to notice a change in your vision – especially if this change seems to occur after extended use of your smartphone – it may be time to cut back. If that idea makes you scoff, then you could also look at newly developed screen covers that reduce the amount of blue light reaching your eyes. The simplest solution, however, is to lay aside the phone and give your delicate eyes a rest!